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Photography, infinitely reproducible, is infinitely challenged these days in addressing its own history. This struggle has attracted the attention of any number of artists including Florian Maier-Aichen, a German artist who completed his master’s degree at UCLA, and now lives both here and in Cologne. He was given a show at MOCA in 2007. He is known to meld various aspects of photographic techniques, from the birth of the medium to the present, both digital and analog, often in a single print. Landscape is his preferred subject, as it has been throughout the history of art, and Maier-Aichen’s landscapes bridge such unlikely combinations as the 19th century techniques of Gustave Le Gray and the theatrical aspects of Hollywood cinematography.

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Florian Maier-Aichen, "100-Mile photograph," 2014
C-print, framed: 101 x 80 1/2 inches
Edition of 6, 2AP
Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Gagosian Gallery, and 303 Gallery

The current show at Blum & Poe requires a pause. All of the photographs are quite large, some stretching to nearly six by eight feet, and at first glance represent familiar landscape scenes. The LA basin as seen from the air, the peaks of Andermatt in Switzerland. But Maier-Aichen alters the picture perfect views with his palette of varied techniques. Infrared film tints LA with dusky red surfaces and deeply blue skies while the green slopes of the Swiss peaks are splashed with very subtle rainbow tints. Yet, the artificiality is sufficiently contained to be startling, hence the pause in what would otherwise be easily digestible photographic subjects.

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Florian Maier-Aichen, "Untitled," 2013
C-print, framed: 72 7/8 x 92 11/16 inches
Edition of 6, 2AP
Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Gagosian Gallery, and 303 Gallery

Looking at travel posters, Maier-Aichen began seeing picturesque distant lands as product being advertised by the advocates of these destinations. His portrayal of any landscape is carefully chosen for its specific meaning, in the history of photography and the history of the place. He returns to sites periodically to photograph them again and again to avoid the trap of seeking out a seductive vignette for viewers and thus ensuring another kind of product. Thus his photographs both promise and undermine romantic associations normally generated by his subject matter.

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Florian Maier-Aichen, "Untitled," 2013
C-print, framed: 63 3/4 x 86 3/8 inches
Edition of 6, 2AP
Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Gagosian Gallery, and 303 Gallery

More recently, he has applied to his ideas about product photography to studio constructions that he photographs on a one to one scale. These entirely abstract color photographs are a departure and the most successful of them riff off formal connections to the landscape. It is on view through December 20.

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Alexis Smith, “Kerouac Haiku,” 1994
Mixed media collage, 27 x 32 x 2 inches
Courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Photo Elon Schoenholz Photography

The use of photographic imagery is considered in a different manner at Honor Fraser Gallery. Saying Yes to Everything is a show about the use of collage across generations and genders and places since 1960 and organized by former Hammer curator Corrina Peipon. She has pulled together work by a discrete but smart group of artists working with collage, many of them women. Alexis Smith is an acknowledged pioneer and a range of her early, mid-career and late works are on view alongside with work by Meg Cranston, Frances Stark, Amanda Ross-Ho, Brenna Youngblood, Fay Ray and many others. Most of the artists are based in L.A., where collage has a long and significant role but there are delightful pieces by well-known figures such as Ray Johnson and Al Hansen as well. This amuse bouche of contemporary collage history is on view through December 20.

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Brenna Youngblood, “Forty Couches and a Rug,” 2008-2011
Mixed media on panel, 12 x 18 inches
Courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Photo Joshua White/JWPictures.com

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